It's been fun! Thank you for a great event and good luck to the remaining scientists!
I attended high school in Italy from 2003 to 2007, following which I moved to Dublin, Ireland, to study science at Trinity College Dublin. I completed my undergraduate degree in Geology in 2011 and am about to complete my PhD course in Geology in Trinity.
BA in Natural Sciences (gold medalist on final exam results)
I’ve translated information panels for a museum in Italy and have translated books on gold prospecting. I teach geology tutorials to first year undergraduate students; I’m also a freelance science writer in my spare time. I do voluntary work for the DSPCA (Dublin Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) and Friends of the Elderly.
PhD Researcher at Trinity College Dublin
Trinity College Dublin
Favourite thing to do in science: I love to discover and dig out extinct creatures. It’s fascinating to think that, when you find a fossil, you are looking at something that was alive millions of years ago! There’s an Indiana Jones side to fossil hunting too, especially when I go out looking for fossils on a river, armed with a machete, a sledge hammer and a chisel, and wearing waders! The same is true when collecting rocks under steep cliff faces: in that case, I need to wear a helmet and be careful of the turning tide. But sometimes the scenery alone, or a spectacular rock formation, can be really thrilling and beautiful.
I hunt extinct squid-like creatures preserved in rocks and give them funny-sounding Latin names.
My work involves studying extinct relatives of Modern Nautilus:
My fossils are 300 million year old ammonoids, relatives of the famous ammonites.
-Did you know that people used to believe ammonites were snakes turned to stone?-
I examine my little fossil friends under the microscope and, then, assign them to the correct genus and species.
The purpose of all this is to better understand how these rocks were laid down through time and to study the ecology and evolution of these creatures.
My Typical Day
After getting up and playing with my cat, I cycle into work, where my day is either spent looking at fossils under the microscope, writing about what I’ve found or reading about the latest research in my field of study.
What I'd do with the money
I’d produce evolution-themed activity packs to distribute to schools, using the Trinity College Geological Museum collections.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Focused, truthful and curious.
Who is your favourite singer or band?
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and, lately, Kygo.
What's your favourite food?
Ice-cream and more ice-cream!
What is the most fun thing you've done?
I’ve swum with a wild, solitary dolphin year after year. It’s an incredible experience!
What did you want to be after you left school?
I wanted to travel and work with animals.
Were you ever in trouble at school?
I regularly got into trouble for chatting too much in class.
What was your favourite subject at school?
I loved my essay writing classes.
What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?
I once discovered a fossil trackway made by an ancient millipede-like creature!
What or who inspired you to become a scientist?
My maths teacher in school and my undergraduate lecturers in geology. Some credit must also go to Bill Bryson and Richard Fortey’s books, which were very inspiring! I was also greatly influenced by Samantha Weinberg’s work on the amazing coelacanth (if you don’t know it, do look it up! :))
If you weren't a scientist, what would you be?
Writer, Vet, Pet groomer, Explorer!
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
To always love my work, to be around people I love and to see the fun in life as much as possible.
Tell us a joke.
Q: Why did the geologist take his girlfriend to the quarry? A: He wanted to get a little boulder.
This is what ammonites might have looked like in life:
Above: ammonite fossil.
Fossil hunting in Switzerland.
That’s me sketching the rocks of Loop Head, Co. Clare.
Sometimes, when I have collected my fossils, I extract them from the rock using a drill and wearing protective clothing.
FIeldwork in Co. Clare is great!